SNELLVILLE - Hunter Watts knew it was up to him.
The Dacula quarterback had carried the offense for most of the night and it wasn't about to change. With his Falcons down three points with less than a minute to play, Watts kept the ball on the option and dove in for a 3-yard touchdown.
The score gave Dacula a 20-16 win over South Gwinnett in a key Region 8-AAAAA matchup on Friday.
It was Dacula's first win ever over South Gwinnett as the Falcons had lost the previous six meetings. After starting the season 0-3, Dacula has won its last two games and is 2-1 in region play.
"(Watts) made some great plays all night long," Dacula head coach Kevin Maloof said. "He's just a tough kid."
Watts led Dacula in rushing with 112 yards and had 131 yards passing.
"They were blitzing a lot and they left open huge holes," Watts said. "When I see green I like to run."
With Dacula down 16-13 with 5:43 left in the game, Watts orchestrated a 20-play, 78-yard drive. The Falcons were 4-for-4 on third or fourth down during the drive. With fourth-and-goal from the six, South Gwinnett (3-3, 2-2) was flagged with a pass interference call to give Dacula another chance.
"That was big," said Dacula receiver Marshall Steed, who was the intended receiver on the play. "They kept us alive."
On the next play, Watts went in for the winning score with 36 seconds left in the game.
"As soon as they kicked that field goal (to go up 16-13) I knew we had to drive down and score," Watts said. "With the game on the line we punched it in."
Dacula's Elijah Mahaley stripped South quarterback Michael Polascik and recovered the ball to seal the win.
Watts hooked up with Steed three times on the final drive and the senior finished with nine catches for 106 yards.
"He's always my favorite target," Watts said. "We put in some new plays and routes and were able to get him open a lot more tonight. He made plays all night."
Dacula ran 75 plays to South's 34 and was 11 of 18 on third down and 3 of 5 on fourth down.
"We had them in third-and-long all night and they made plays and we didn't," South Gwinnett head coach John Small said.
South took an early lead on a 45-yard field goal by Griffin Thomas, but Dacula's Malcolm Young, who had six tackles, sacked Polascik and recovered the quarterback's fumble to give the Falcons the ball at South's 30.
Darrien Lane led the defense with seven stops and Brad Mills had five.
Dacula was unable to move the ball with the good field position and that set up South's second score.
The Comets went up 10-0 on a 55-yard pass from Polascik to Johnathan Krause with 3:12 left in the half. Polascik was 11 of 16 for 149 yards. Krause, the county's leading receiver, was his main target with seven catches for 95 yards.
South Gwinnett's Aaron Wimberly was the game's leading rusher with 114 yards on 13 carries.
Dacula responded with eight-play drive aided by a roughing the passer to the South 1.
Watts punched into the end zone to make it 10-7 at the half.
The Falcons took their next possession 80 yards for a seven-yard TD run by Taylor Roberts to take the first lead of the game 13-10 after the PAT failed.
South Gwinnett used two more field goals by Griffin, who also had three touchbacks, from 48 and 30 yards to go up 16-13.
The second field goal was after Rasheed Manson deflected a Watts pass on fourth down from the five.
Zach Bobo was the Comets' leading tackler with 12 stops, Chaz Jackson and Richard Shankle (sack) had 11, Jamal Noble added 10 and Tommy Reynolds had nine.
Dacula had the opportunity to tie the game twice with field goals, but elected to go for it both times on fourth down. It didn't work the first time, but the second time the pass interference call aided the drive and Watts added the finishing touches.
"Our kicker, he's a ninth-grader and I'm not going to let him win or lose the ball game for us," Maloof said. "It may be stupid coaching, we could have kicked three field goals, but I'm not going to put it on him. Our kids wanted to win the ball game."
Dacula 20, South Gwinnett 16
South Gwinnett: Griffin Thomas 45 FG, 7:46
South Gwinnett: Johnathan Krause 55 pass from Michael Polascik (Thomas kick) 3:12
Dacula: Hunter Watts 1 run (Chase Loyd kick) :7
Dacula: Taylor Roberts 7 run (kick no good) 7:28
South Gwinnett: Thomas 48 FG, 4:44
South Gwinnett: Thomas 30 FG, 5:55
Dacula: Hunter Watts 3 run (Loyd kick) :35
RUSHING - Dacula: Hunter Watts 20-112; Taylor Roberts 10-42; Aashad Holloway 12-20; Cody Davis 9-14. South Gwinnett: Aaron Wimberly 13-114; Michael Polascik 4-18; Johnathan Krause 1-2.
PASSING - Dacula: Watts 13-24-0, 131. South Gwinnett: Polascik 11-16-0, 149.
RECEIVING - Dacula: Marshall Steed 9-106; Holloway 2-15; Jake Brown 1-6; Beau Holcombe 1-2. South Gwinnett: Krause 7-95; Derrick Brown 1-28; Corey Benson 1-6; Wimberly 1-4; Aaron Jividen 1-6.